Poland’s ruling coalition, United Right, whose most prominent member is the Law and Justice (PiS) party, can count on support from two types of media. The first is the public media, which, in theory, shall implement its statutory mission of informing the public about key events1, but in practice, prepares a message formatted to legitimize the current government. The second is private media with its ties to power and remaining in friendly relations with both PiS and the government, which has consisted primarily of PiS representatives.
These relationships take two basic dimensions: personal and financial. The former consists of the mutual penetration of politics and journalism, personal long-term acquaintances between political leaders and opinion leaders, which should be understood as private relations, often from before the time of involvement in politics, as well as the existence of a specific “grey area” in which journalists perform public functions or politicians work in the media. The latter is based on the purchase of advertisements in de jure private media by state-owned companies.
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An element of this narrative, which is not uncommon in politics, is to point out lines of demarcation and thus support its political camp, which is capable of exploiting such outlined social divisions. This article traces how the two leading, theoretically private pro-government online media, wPolityce.pl and Niezależna.pl, use the words “liberal” and “liberalism” to strengthen party and government messages, while the largest Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, rarely identifies as liberal and tries to avoid using this term.
It is important to look at the word “liberal” or “liberalism”. The media, whose task is not to inform, but to format public debate, look for a dividing line in society to be able to make such a division effective, identifying liberalism as both a threat and something irresponsible is part of a broader strategy of disinformation. In this case, it forms the whole narrative.
Liberalism and the liberals are shown in in a clever way as an opponent both strong and dangerous but also weak and ridiculous. This is a strategy of disinformation that is far from being easily repulsed.
Liberalism Under a Pragmatic Mask
Liberalism is an approach within the philosophy of politics in which individual freedom is a key concept. Although liberalism may be understood, interpreted, and presented in many different ways, the idea placed at its core, that the individual is autonomous, remains unchanged. The diversity of liberalism is perfectly visible in a wide range of ideologies and political doctrines built on the basis of the abstract philosophy of liberalism.
Nevertheless, the temptation to understand the term very broadly, also in a way unfavorable to the liberals themselves, is somewhat ingrained in its definition.
1 Art. 23. 1 of the Broadcasting Act.Public radio and television broadcasters provides political parties with an opportunity to present their position on key public matters. Available [online]: http://isap.sejm.gov.pl/isap.nsf/download.xsp/WDU19930070034/U/D19930034Lj.pdf